Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Richard Pombo: Congressman (R-Calif.), Chairman, House Resources Committee

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

A former Central Valley cattleman from Tracy, California, the 44-year-old Pombo has made rewriting the Endangered Species Act a top priority since he was elected in 1992. And this year—his third as chairman of the House committee that oversees natural resources and environmental legislation—he's teamed up with three colleagues (two Republicans and a Democrat) to take what may be his best shot yet. The group announced in February that it will develop ESA-reform legislation this year, with goals that include increasing requirements for scientific review before a species can be added to the endangered list and using incentives, rather than regulations, to encourage landowner participation in endangered-species recovery.

Pombo's ten-gallon hat and winsome mustache belie a fiercely honed instinct to rule. In 2005, he redesigned House Resources Committee protocol so that all bills were funneled directly to him, rather than to subcommittee chairs, and he alone decides how—and whether—to parcel them out. No fan of wilderness designation, he also sent his committee members a stern memo suggesting that wilderness bills would not get past his desk unless they allowed for "mechanized access," which includes vehicles like logging trucks.

SOUND BITE: "Pombo's agenda is to dismantle 100 years of conservation efforts by the American people," says Bart Semcer, the Sierra Club's Washington representative for endangered-species and wildlife issues. "He's one of the worst people I could imagine chairing that committee."

NEXT UP: Pombo remains determined to open ANWR to oil drilling—and with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, this could be the year.

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